Most of us are familiar with the Christmas story, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, it’s basically about The Grinch who dislikes Christmas and how the Who’s who live at the bottom of the mountain all love it. He attempts to prevent Christmas from coming. As this is only a Dr. Seuss story, turned cartoon, turned movie; it’s not real. But in 2002, a real-life Grinch prevented Christmas from coming for three innocent people.
Ernest Wholaver and his wife Jean had two daughters, Victoria and Elizabeth. In July of 2002, Ernest was charged with multiple sexual offenses for alleged conduct involving his two daughters. Since Elizabeth was still a minor when the charges were filed, her mother, Jean, obtained an order of protection which included provisos that Ernest be evicted from the home and that he be denied right to enter. He was also prohibited from possessing or acquiring firearms.
Ernest then 42, moved back in with his parents and younger brother, Scott, who was then 28. Fast forward 5 months.
Christmas Eve, 2002, shortly after midnight Jean and her two daughters, plus Victoria’s 9-month-old daughter Madison were all at home sleeping. That night, the Grinch came down the mountain.
Ernest and his brother Scott, drove from their parents’ home and Ernest instructed his brother to park about a block away from his former home with his family. Ernest exited the car and Scott remained in the car.
Ernest walked up to the house and the first thing he did was cut the telephone and all other wires leading to it. He gained entry, and then in a matter of minutes he had shot his wife Jean, daughter Elizabeth, and his oldest daughter Victoria all with a pistol he had been carrying. His granddaughter Madison was unharmed, and left near her mother, alone and unattended.
All three victims had died from the gunshot.
Ernest then returned to the car and his brother and instructed him to drive to another county. When they had arrived Ernest removed the pistol, a shotgun, and any other evidence in the car. He then told his brother to provide a false story of their whereabouts that night.
The bodies were not discovered until twenty-eight hours later. Twenty-eight hours, a nine-month-old baby was lying near her deceased mother. She had no cater.
Police obtained warrants to search his person, vehicle and his parents’ home. They did obtain evidence and then he was arrested and charged with three counts of first-degree murder. The death penalty would be pursued for Ernest in this case.
Scott Wholaver was also arrested but he agreed to cooperate with authorities. He received a plea deal to plead guilty to third degree murder and would then be a central witness in the case. Scott was the one to lead detectives to the murder weapon, but due to both the gun and bullets being degraded they could not make a definitive match.
During trial, Scott stated that after Jean had filed for divorce, Ernest had told him (Scott) that he would shoot her. Scott then described the night of the murders and stated that his brother had told him he wanted to go there only to get his dog.
While he had been in jail waiting for trial, Ernest had a case of the blabber mouth. Several prisoners testified that Ernest had told them various incriminating statements as well as Ernest’s attempts to hire a hitman to kill the father of Victoria’s daughter, his granddaughter, Madison. Madison’s father is Francisco Ramos, and he was not currently with Victoria at the time.
Ernest and his lawyer’s stated that he had only been trying to hire a hitman to kill the real person who had committed these crimes, Francisco Ramos. His counsel suggested that Ernest was a distraught father and husband and wanted to avenge the loss of his family.
During the trial the prosecution introduced the preliminary hearing testimony of Elizabeth and Victora Wholaver from the sexual assault case. The theory was that they were killed to prevent their testimony. Unfortunately, Ernest was acquitted of the sexual assault charges.
Ernest was convicted of first-degree murder, three times. He was also convicted of the crimes of killing prosecution witnesses, conspiracy, reckless endangerment (for Madison), burglary, and criminal solicitation. He was sentenced to death and is still on death row.
Scott Wholaver was sentenced to 12 1/2 to 25 years for three counts of third-degree murder. He remains in prison to this day.
Madison Wholaver Ramos was raised by her father.
Unfortunately, this story didn’t end with the Grinch’s heart growing larger, it ended with three innocent lives gone, a baby who never knew her mother, and a family that will never be able to celebrate Christmas, or any other event again.
Be strong, make good choices, be safe